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Berlin Bites

Ma-Makan: Berlin’s first Southeast Asian kopitiam

Since opening Ma-Makan in Kreuzberg in 2022, Melbourne-born Kaylin Eu has been dishing up the mouth watering flavours of her Malaysian-Singaporean roots.

Photo: Kaylin Yu

Like its international population, Berlin’s rich tapestry of cuisines from around the world is ever-growing. In late 2022, the city’s first kopitiam opened in Kreuzberg – a type of Imbiss found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and southern Thailand. After its first full year, we take a closer look at the eatery that brings its owner closer to home. This is the story of Ma-Makan.

A big reason was wanting to eat the food.

Berlin’s inaugural kopitiam is the culmination of one woman’s quest to reconnect with her roots through food. Raised in Melbourne in a Malaysian-Singaporean family, Kaylin Eu moved to Berlin in 2015. Berlin left her wanting when it came to familiar flavour from home, so she started carving out time for occasional pop-ups between barista jobs, serving the food she longed for, like the popiah (springrolls) she used to make with her family and her grandmother’s favourite dish, mee siam.

Photo: Makar Artemev

“I think it was just from wanting more excitement or fulfilment from my work, but also really enjoying cooking at home. A big reason was wanting to eat the food,” she says. After a few years of pop-ups, even catering for the Singaporean embassy, and running a temporary restaurant in Neukölln for eight months, Eu landed a permanent space on Lausitzer Platz in 2022, and the fully-fledged Ma-Makan – a name that loosely translates to “Mama, eat” – was born.

Eu’s eatery has an array of tea and coffee on offer, with beans imported from Singapore to bring the same slightly caramelised taste you’d get there (go for the traditional options with condensed milk or butter). The food is imbued with the same sense of authenticity. Case in point: their iconic Malaysian breakfast meal nasi lemak (sometimes considered the national dish), a bright platter of coconut rice, roasted peanuts, fried anchovies, fried egg, cucumber, achar (pickled vegetables, as Eu’s grandmother used to make) and sambal (chilli paste). “This is my favourite dish because you have so many different flavours and textures,” the owner explains. “People eat it differently. Some people mix it all together like a bibimbap, but I don’t like doing that. I like to take little bits of each thing like a little condiment.”

Photo: Kaylin Yu

If you’re hoping for a lighter breakfast, opt for the kaya toast. A mix of Southeast Asian and British colonial influences, it’s white bread from Prenzlauer Berg’s Bekarei with salted butter and kaya, a custardy jam made from the tropical pandan plant, which has hints of vanilla and nuts. It’s simple yet wildly delicious, and you can beef it up by adding two soft soy sauce eggs on the side.

I didn’t want to piss anyone off.

Eu has built up a following among Berlin’s Malaysian and Singaporean diasporas, which is a clue as to the excellent flavours of the sweet, salty, umami menu. But the reason for catering to two different cuisines isn’t just down to the owner’s own heritage. “It’s a little bit complicated because they were, at one time, one country, so there’s a lot of the same dishes,” says Eu, pointing to the shared history of Malaysia and Singapore. “So I didn’t want to piss anyone off.”

From sambal to curry pastes, everything is made in-house, bringing deep, well-rounded flavour to everything from the nasi lemak to tahu goreng, a crisp tofu dish with soy-tamarind-peanut sauce. With prices maxing out around €14 and rotating dishes like a curry-of-the week and occasional laksa specials (a rich, coconutty noodle soup), it’s the kind of place that’s easy to frequent.

  • Ma-Makan, Lausitzer Platz 12, Kreuzberg, details.